A beginning astronomy question

I just got myself a pretty cool spottin’ scope that I can also use for astronomy. It’s on a stable tripod, but I am having a heck of a time getting the object in view. I can see it clearly in the sky with my naked eye, but when I point the scope in that direction and try to find it few the scope, it takes forever for me to line it up, and I often end up losing it in the process of locking down the tripod.

Any suggestions for this beginner?

Practice, practice, practice.

Do you have a viewfinder? If not, you might want to consider getting one. They help a great deal.

Aim for the moon. It causes enough skyglow that it’s easy to know which way to move your scope. The side of the field nearest the moon will be brightest.
Keep both eyes open as you search for it with the scope, and once you have the moon in the scope, look along telescope tube to see where the end of it is in relation to the moon. Other, harder to find, objects will have about the same offset or parallax.
Give your telescope a spin, and try again, repeating several times, until you get the hang of it. Then try for a planet. They’re a little tougher.

If you mean the separate little viewer attached to the scope, no. Is it easy to attach to my scope? I have an Astele 60.

Unfortunately, I can’t see the moon from where I am. I managed to get a planet in view yesterday for about 80 seconds, but it quickly moved out of view, and I had to begin my adjustments again. sigh

:confused: North pole?
You can practice the same skill in the daytime with the edges of clouds. With practice, you can even track along contrails to see the jets at their tips. That’ll improve your night time gazing abilities too.

Only if you can get the durn Earth to stop spinning for a while, will you avoid this problem; that’s the trouble with small objects. :slight_smile: Astronomical scopes have a motor that lets the scope track along with the planet or deep sky object, so you can just sit there for hours watching.

Unfortunately, spotting scopes and cheap “department store” scopes are not good for astronomical observation. I’d hesitate to recommend buying a finder scope for this, as you will still have a terrible time observing anything comfortably.

Astronomical scopes also have a special mounting on top of the tripod that permits what is called “polar alignment” so the scope then can follow an object, even if it does not have a motor. This is not easy to learn either, I’m afraid.

Try Googling for “astronomy telescopes” and you may be able to find a lot of good information. There are some excellent books for beginners that tell all about scopes, observation, etc. One of the very best is The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide by Dickinson & Dyer. You might find it in a library or as a used book on Amazon.com. Also there are some newsgroups just for astronomy where you can learn a lot.

Wish I could be more encouraging, but unfortunately, it does take a bit of money to get a decent telescope. There are really a lot of good used ones, but don’t even think of buying one until you do some research on them, as you may get one that is not suitable at all. Most of the best ones are Meade or Celestron.

Also, depending upon where you live, there may be an astronomy club. All clubs hold what are called “star parties” where members set up telescopes, and newbies are most welcome. They will let you look through differnt kinds of scopes and will help you get started. This is the very best way to get educated in the wonderful hobby of astronomy.

You’ll never run out of things to see in the sky! :slight_smile:

BTW, what do you mean you can’t see the moon where you are? I think it can be seen anywhere on the earth. :slight_smile:

They’re not all that bad. You can see the moons of Jupiter, or get a good look at Venus’ phases with a small scope. I even managed to view Comet NEAT and the Beehive Cluster with a pair of 10X50 binocs last year. It wasn’t quite as detailed as the linked photo, but still, it was darned cool to see them hanging up there in the sky together!

Rings of Saturn are also visible.

If the scope isn’t too big you might have better luck taking it off the tripod and lean against a tree or something to steady yourself so you can use it by hand. If you have more than one eyepiece use the lowest power.

If you get hooked you used to be able to get a pretty good telescope from Edmun Scientific with an equatorial mount that will enable you to track the object by just moving around one axis. Google “Edmund Scientific.”

I did a lot of research and comparison shopping beforehand. I bought this scope specifically because I could use it for both beginning astronomy and terrestrial use.

Is that part of the tripod and not the scope?

I was under the impression that the LOMO 60 Maksutov spotting scope was a quality scope. Was I misinformed?

Actually, no. Not from my apartment. I have only the view from my front window, and I live among high-rises, on a lower floor, so I can only see the moon for about an hour, and it’s at an angle that makes it difficult to get to with the scope.

That’s awesome! Thanks for the encouragement. :slight_smile:

It’s a bit too big and strong for that; the slightest movement moves things erratically and/or completely out of view.

My second choice was this scope but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to use it as a spotting scope, too.

First, you need a telescope with a good mount. If it’s stiff and hard to move, it’s going to be hard to move it just a little to stay on track of an object. That’s how my little 50 mm telescope was, especially for vertical motion. I bought a nice 8" reflector which is a lot easier to move.

Another thing, make sure you’re using the eyepiece with the least magnification. (It’ll be the largest eyepiece.) That’ll allow a larger field of view. Look down the length of the telescope and try to line it up with the object as well as you can. Then look in the eyepiece, and if you can’t see the object, move the telescope around slightly. This works best in long, narrow telescopes. In short, wide ones, you’ll probably have to use the viewfinder. Make sure the viewfinder is aimed right by finding something bright but small in the telescope (like Venus) and then making sure the viewfinder is centered on it.

And more importantly, get out of the apartment. You’re just making it hard on yourself trying to look through a window. Go to the roof or something. It’ll be worth it.

It’s just a 1/4 x 20 that screws onto a tripod. What is yours?

It’s not stiff or hard to move. When all the proper parts are loosened, it moves quiet well - too well, actually, which is why things keep falling from view as I go to lockdown the tripod.

Yes, I have tried this, but I am having a heck of a time getting the object in view through the scope. I can see it clearly in the sky with my naked eye, but when I point the scope in that direction and then try to find it by moving the scope ever so slightly, it takes forever for me to get it in view, and I often end up losing it in the process of locking down the tripod. And it only came with one lens.

There is no viewfinder, as I mentioned earlier. I posted a link to my spotting scope. The tube is 3.2" x 12.6".

I will take it out of the apartment for the astronomy club, but it isn’t practical otherwise. I enjoy looking from my apartment, and I’m not looking through the window; the window is open while I’m viewing. It is a very LARGE window. There is no access to the roof.

The view aside, doesn’t light from surrounding buildings foul your view somewhat?

Well, I don’t have anything to compare it with, but it doesn’t seem to affect it at all. I did get a peak at the moon tonight, and it was fantastic! The detail is incredible! I love my new scope …

My small one uses a tripod, perhaps like yours. The reflector sits on a dobsonian mount, as it’s far too large to be practical for a tripod. Apparently, Discovery doesn’t have my telescope on their site anymore, but it’s just a lower quality version of the 8" found here.

That sounds a lot like my small telescope. It had a handle you could screw to make the vertical motion stiffer or looser. I just left it where it was stiff enough not to fall on its own, but loose enough to be moved without too much effort. I don’t think it had a way to tighten horizontal movement. But I had quite a time getting that telescope pointed at anything because of the mount, and from what you’ve said, I think it’s likely your problem too.

I took a look at your link and noticed a few things. First, your eyepiece (which is somehow zoomable, I’ve never seen one like that) has a minimum magnification of 48x. That’s exactly what my largest eyepiece provides and I have no problems finding stuff. Still, you may consider getting an even larger eyepiece for less magnification, allowing you a wider field of view and making it easier to find things.

Second, it doesn’t come with a mount so I’m guessing you’re using one for a camera. You would really do good by getting a better mount. There’s no getting around it. Most camera tripods weren’t designed for precision movement. Spend the money on something better suited for your purpose and you’ll be happier.

I hope this doesn’t disgruntle you, but in amateur astronomy as much as anything else, you get what you pay for. You shouldn’t spend $600 on a telescope like I did unless you know you’re into it, but you can only get out of it what you put into it. Get yourself a good mount, or just deal with the one you have until you’re ready to upgrade. Your telescope is basically an entry-level telescope and won’t satisfy you if you really get into it, but it’s certainly good for playing around a little and learning the ropes.

Right on. The mount is more important than the telescope in my opinion. You can have a lot of fun with an average telescope and a good mount. The opposite combination is usually one big headache.

If you get a tripod with an equatorial mounting system and learn how to align it correctly, then tracking objects will be a lot easier as tracking is what an equatorial mount is designed to do. The manual ones have flexible cables with knobs that you turn to move the scope on the tripod. When properly aligned, you can easily manually track an object. Here is one for you to see what it is all about.

Min-EQ Tabletop Equatorial Mount

Don’t automatically reject a table top tripod. Being able to sit while observing makes a huge difference!

I think the moon is by far the best thing to observe with a small scope as you really can get the feel of it as a place, not just as an object in the sky. Jupiter, Saturn and Venus should also become second nature to find and observe. But the real excitement for me and a lot of other amateur astronomers is deep sky objects and there are a surprising large number that can be seen with good binoculars or a small scope. I recommend you get a beginner’s sky atlas to pump up your observing a notch.

Sky Atlas for Small Telescopes and Binoculars